Meet Albert Miare. The 64-year-old is a retired Assistant Police Commandant who ventured into farming as the viable option when he left the Maritime Police Unit, after 37 years in the service.
Owning two acres in Kasarani – Nairobi where his home is also located, he started with a heifer his cousin offered him, and added two others.
With the herd growing over the years, Miare Dairy Farm is a thriving urban enterprise, which also supplies fresh vegetables to residents, a business his wife Fatma started sometime in 2006.
His zero-grazing unit rests on quarter-acre hosting 50 animals of Friesian, Ayrshire and Guernsey breeds, with the cows housed separately according to their ages, with drainage channels carefully built in the sheds to help in draining the waste to the farm.
Miare, “I am currently milking 15 cows thrice daily (5am, at noon and 5pm) and get at least 210 litres of milk, with my high milker offering me 35 litres daily. 10 more cows would be lactating soon therefore; I am expecting my production to hit 400 litres.
His clients are suppliers, schools, hotels, hospitals and neighbours at Sh60 per litre
His cows feed on napier grass, hay, vegetables from his farm and mineral concentrates twice daily .
Miare also collects manure that he sells to other farmers at Sh16, 000 per 10-tonne lorry.
Once a farmer, always a farmer he also grow vegetables which include collard greens (sukuma wiki), spinach, amaranth, African black nightshade (managu), African kales (kanzira) and cowpeas (kunde) mainly inside greenhouses measures 10 by 20m each.
Miare, “I started with one greenhouse after investing Sh230,000. Right now I have three greenhouses that host the vegetables. The changing climatic conditions and pests and diseases played a part in my decision to grow vegetables in greenhouses.”
He has records of all his farming ventures as they help him avert unnecessary loses, act as reminders for all that goes on in the agribusiness and keep the proprietor informed of the health status of his venture.
According to Prof Matthews Dida, a plant breeder and agriculturist at Maseno University’s School of Agriculture, cultivation of vegetables in greenhouses to inhibit spread of diseases.
Professor, “Diseases like early blight and bacterial wilt can be easily contained in the structures as well as pests such as aphids and spider mites. Growing the vegetables in greenhouses, therefore, leads to high yields.”
Because of huge demand, Miare sells the spinach and collard greens at Sh35 per kilo while kunde goes for Sh40 per kilo.
“Vegetables are in demand throughout the year and the fact that they take a shorter time to mature means one is assured of constant income.”
His two ventures complement each other. “The cows provide manure for the crops and in turn, he offers the animals a surplus vegetable that include amaranth, which is rich in proteins hence helps in replenishing their milk supply capability and boosting the protein quality of the milk”
Miare isolates bad weather, expensive feeds, water shortage, poor vegetable seeds and lack of extension services as some of the challenges he has to contend with.
He currently has six employees, three taking care of the crops and three handling the dairy cows.
“I am lucky that diseases have never really been a challenge on my farm, especially due to the minimal interaction of my animals with others and good management practices,” says the farmer, whose agribusiness has won him two awards, with the latest coming from the National Farmers Awards Scheme run by Elgon Kenya and Ministry of Agriculture.
More cash comes from selling heifers at between Sh120,000 to Sh200,000 depending on their ages, while a month old bull calves go for Sh5,000.
His plan is to expand to milk processing by pasteurising and making yoghurt, sour milk, ice cream and ghee.
“I am very passionate about value addition and that is where I want to go,” says Miare, advising dairy farmers to limit their herds to a few, manageable high production animals for more returns.
BY: Malachi Motano